College students despite their bubbling energy and rebounding activities may exhibit signs of depression, including excessive sleeping, changes in appetite, low mood, and a loss of interest in activities once previously enjoyed when they come home for holidays.

At the time of returning back to college, they may prefer to stay at home complaining about college/ school, lack of friends or dim future. Is it just “homesickness” or anything alarming?

College students, especially those staying in hostels, face many life stressors: adjusting to living away from home, academic demands, living with roommates, building new friendships, managing time and money, and more. Their reactions to such changes indicate what might be going on.

Students who are “homesick” will rebound quickly after checking in with those they miss or after a brief visit home. Talking with family and friends rejuvenates their problem-solving and assessment of their situation.

But, students with depression have symptoms that persist and interfere with normal activities, such as:

      · Inexplicable sadness or unhappiness

· Irritability or frustration, even over small matters

· Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities

· Insomnia or excessive sleeping

· Changes in appetite or weight

· Agitation or restlessness

· Angry outbursts

· Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements

· Indecisiveness, distractibility and decreased concentration

· Fatigue, tiredness and loss of energy

· Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixation on past failures, or self-blame when things aren’t going right

· Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things

· Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide

· Crying spells for no apparent reason

· Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

Students who have impaired academic performance, smoke, and engage in risky behaviours such as drinking excessively, using substances, and having unprotected sex are more likely to exhibit the above symptoms.

Tips to help them:

      1. Be supportive in your feedback regarding what you are noticing. Talk about specific behaviours you are observing, and explain why you are concerned.

2. Struggling in college is not uncommon. Let them know help is available and they can feel better.

3. Listen to what your student is willing to share, and be patient if they deny that anything is wrong. Leave the door open to discuss it at a later time.

4. Encourage your student to see a professional. Most college campuses have a student counselling centre, where sessions are low-cost or free. Your student might benefit from an assessment by a counsellor to determine whether therapy, medication, or other resources can help.

5. Encourage your student to avoid making major decisions, such as changing majors or taking on a job or internship, until they are feeling better. Instead, suggest they get involved in activities they might enjoy, or to do other things that will lift their mood, such as exercise.

6. Do not offer to step in and “save” your student from any source of their distress. Encourage your student to use resources available on campus or within the community to address issues themselves. This builds mastery and a sense of empowerment.

7. Clarify what you are and are not willing to do. Sometimes students think their parent(s) will step in to fix issues, or will allow them to come home if they fail in school. Be clear in your expectations and what the consequences will be if your student chooses not to comply.

Left untreated, depression can get worse and lead to substance abuse, risky behaviours, and even suicide. If treated appropriately, depression can be overcome, and your student can have a successful college experience.

Source: Psychology Today